LUZ DEL FUEGO

Espírito Santo, ES, 1917-1967

No Trampolim da Vida, 1946

Dora Vivacqua was born into an italian wealthy family and was obsessed with snakes since childhood. At the age of twenty-seven, she began performing as Luz del Fuego in theaters, cinemas and circuses. Dancing half-naked with two or more pythons, she became an immediate blockbuster in several countries. Throughout her career, she also published books and magazines, proposed the creation of a political party and founded the "Island of the Sun", first Naturalist Club in Latin America.

 published on 22/06/2021

In 1975, Rita Lee released Luz Del Fuego, in which she sang: “I represent madness today, whatever you want. Everything you see comes out of the mouth of a great woman, however crazy!”. The song was inspired by Dora Vivacqua, known by the artistic name Luz del Fuego. Her legacy was erased and she was considered by many a talentless madwoman. Probably even today she would be ridiculed and condemned, since her libertarian ideas and practices remain visionary. Born in Cachoeiro de Itapemirim, on February 21, 1917, Dora was the fifteenth daughter of Etelvina and José Antônio Vivacqua. At the age of three, the girl moved to a house in Belo Horizonte, where meetings and soirees took place, attended by politicians, artists and intellectuals such as Carlos Drummond de Andrade. The young rebel soon discovers a serpentarium near where she lived, which becomes her favorite place throughout childhood. Years later, when Dora turned fifteen, she received the news of her father's murder and moved to Rio. In the new city, she began to challenge her family more and more, joining a circus group, sewing short costumes and using only scarves to go to the beach, when it was still forbidden to wear a two-piece bathing suit and there was no bikini. About her relationship with nature, she wrote: “It doesn't take great powers of observation to notice the difference between a person raised in the confinement of four walls and another living outdoors, breathing at the top of their lungs, smelling the sun, externalizing health and life through every pore; and in the attitudes, in the gaze, allowing us to glimpse an innate happiness, a fortune, the reason for our coming to human objectification”.

Her brother, a constituent deputy, decides to send her back to avoid scandals. Dora goes to live with a sister and her husband, who starts to harass her. When caught by his wife, he makes the family consider her schizophrenic, leading to a two-month asylum stay in 1936. When she is released, she goes to another brother's farm, where she appears to an employee as "Eve", using only leaves and snakes-vines in the arms. When reprimanded, Dora attacks her brother and is admitted to another psychiatric clinic. In the early 1940s, after completing her studies at the Imaculada Conceição boarding school, she writes Trágico Black-Out, a noir novel about abuse, prostitution and a critique of conservatism. Years later, Dora finishes her BA in Science and Letters, but chooses to pursue an artistic career. Inspired by a book about Macedonian and Babylonian priestesses who practiced dancing with snakes, she concludes that boa constrictors would be the least dangerous to train and lead. Even though Dora had suffered hundreds of bites, she kept a pet couple named Cornelius and Castorina loose in her house. In 1944, with the name suggested by a clown, Luz Del Fuego debuted in the Pavilhão Azul circus. Entitled Temptation of Eve and Legend of Cobra Grande, the first performances provoked a lot of word-of-mouth and media coverage, quickly transforming Luz into one of the best known stars in the country, along with contemporaries such as Virginia Lane and Elvira Pagã, with whom she had great fights.

A Nativa Solitária, Francisco de Almeida Fleming's documentary, 1954, recovered by Espírito Santo's Public Archive

In 1945, Luz performed in Panama, Uruguay and Argentina. The following year, she made her debut in the film No Trampolim da Vida and embarked on a North American tour, where she danced, improved studies and found out about nudist colonies. When she becomes a fan of naturism, she decides to also be a precursor of its implementation in Brazil. In 1948, she published the book A Verdade Nua, in which launched the theorization of the Brazilian naturist movement and defended herself from accusations: “A nudist is a person who believes that clothing is not necessary for the morality of the human body. We don't conceive that the human body has indecent parts that need to be hidden". The first edition of the book was seized by the police, and it was republished years later. At the same time, Luz also founded Naturalismo, the first magazine in the country with explicit content, reaching more than twenty editions. In 1950, she returned to the theaters, making huge profits by attracting 100,000 spectators a month. With her success, she was hired to star in Eva no Paraíso at Teatro Follies in Copacabana. During the 1950s, she performed presentations that reached hundreds of snakes in the North, Northeast and South of the country, throughout the United States and Europe, and for King Faruk of Egypt. In addition, she was on the cover of Life magazine and starred in several other films such as Folias Cariocas and Não Me Digas Adeus. However, fame also brought her several problems, such as accusations, fines, arrests and undergoing "psychological tests".

Luz Del Fuego also tried to launch herself into politics, with the foundation of the Brazilian Naturalist Party, whose slogan was "Less clothes and more bread!". Among the proposals were the end of restrictions on spiritualism and African-based religions, areas to practice nudism with family, the right to divorce and measures to protect animals. In 1950, she obtained authorization from the Navy to live in Tapuama de Dentro, an island in Guanabara Bay, close to Paquetá and São Gonçalo. Renamed "Island Of The Sun", it was where Luz founded the Clube Naturalista Brasileiro, first in Latin America, attracting personalities such as Ava Gardner, Brigitte Bardot and Lana Turner. In the program, there were exhibitions of plays and films, sports and bathing in the sea. Luz was armed and strictly controlled the area, not allowing the entry of minors, alcoholic beverages and sex. In 1960, she went to live there permanently, spending years dedicating to renovations and constructions. In October 1965, she complained to the police about visits of criminals to the Island. Months later, she denounced crimes in the region, including the murder of a fisherman. On the night of July 19, 1967, Luz and the caretaker Edigar Lira were killed by men who had worked on the Island and thought they might find money. The disappearance reverberated in the news across the country, coming to be seen as a publicity stunt. The bodies were found at sea two weeks later. The following year, the killers were sentenced to 31 years in prison.

Shows and Films Chronology:

1944- Tudo é Brasil

1946- No Trampolim da Vida

1947-  Não Me Digas Adeus

1948- Folias Cariocas e Poeira de Estrelas

1950- Cutuca por Baixo, Festival de Danças Brasileiras e Eva no Paraíso

1951- É Rei, Sim e Balança Mas Não Cai

1952-  Saúde e Nudismo, A Fruta de Eva (O Nu Através dos Tempos), A Verdade Nua e É Grande Rei

1953- O que é que o bikine tem?

1954- A Nativa Solitária e É Sopa no Mel

1955- Esta Mulher É de Morte

1957-  Cururu, o Terror do Amazonas

1959- Momo e Bambolê, Comendo de Colher e Mulher... Só Daquele Jeito

1960/1- Carnaval da Ilha do Sol

1965- Boas em Liquidação

1969- Tarzan e o Grande Rio

Research References:

AGOSTINHO, Cristina; PAULA, Branca; BRANDÃO, Maria do Carmo. Luz del Fuego, a bailarina do povo: uma biografia. Best Seller, 1994.

A NATIVA SOLITÁRIA: Francisco de Almeida Fleming. América Films. Brasil, 1954.

MENEZES, Tiago. A verdadeira Luz del Fuego, All Print, 2011

SILVA, Aguinaldo; CARVALHO, Joaquim Vaz. Luz del Fuego, Codecri, 1982

ISSA, Luís Carlos "Última entrevista: Luz del Fuego". O Cruzeiro Nº47, 1967

Lucélia Santos in a scene from Luz del Fuego by David Neves, 1982